Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

January 20, 2016

Little Resurrections

The cry was deafening: “MOOOOOOOOM! MOOOOOOM! Something’s going on!!”


Charlotte was upstairs getting ready for school. Her chore list includes feeding her beta fish Sammy Butterfly. Her yell jolted me out of my pre coffee haze and my stomach filled with dread.


We’d recently lost a sweet, terrified rabbit named Frederick (named after her favorite character from Sound of Music) and frankly, I was waiting for ole Sammy to be floating on top of his watery home. He’d been with us a good year and a half: how long can a little fish live?




Slow motion, gathering myself. What to say if Sammy was a goner, trying to remember in my pre-coffee haze what words of comfort had worked with Frederick’s demise and, most importantly, wondering if all this would make her late for school for the third time that week. I cared about Sammy, don’t get me wrong, but those tardy slips are a bummer.


“MOOOOOOOOM!” Her yell had a new, bright tone to it. Hmm. Maybe Sammy was not dead, only on life support?




“What is it, honey?” I finally answered, reaching the top of the stairs.


“Sammy’s ALIVE!” Charlotte beamed, triumphant. Mary Magdalene at the tomb.


“Well … that is something, babe!” I found myself at a loss for words, such an unexpected turn. “Way to go, Sammy! On being alive.”


For the millionth time, my daughter who supposedly is “different” from the typical kiddo, goes to the heart of the matter. How great – how worth celebrating – should our waking up in the morning be? What a different way to live if we were grateful and surprised for the morning sun and had another day to explore this life on our groovy planet?


When I was a sophomore in college, I took my first class in Tibetan Buddhism. I had mostly been studying Hinduism, which looked a lot to me like the Grateful Dead shows I was frequenting at that time: flowers, paint, drumming, bacchanal. This Buddhism thing was a whole other thing with not a flower in sight. The class began with the Four Noble


Truths, which go something like this:
• Everything is impermanent
• Our suffering comes from clinging to what is impermanent
• Liberation from suffering will come if we stop clinging
• You have to work wicked hard and meditate all the time in order to liberate yourself.


What a bummer! I immediately returned to my Hinduism/Grateful Dead major.


Of course, when I travelled to Nepal and actually met some Tibetans, it was a whole different story. The Tibetans I met were a blast: witty, wise, free. I changed my course of studies within a day, and my question became: how does meditating on your own death and impermanence lead to such funny, wise people?


Not being a practitioner, I won’t bullshit you and say that I know. But anecdotally? Here’s what I observe. If we really understand that death could happen at any time, how fantastic that we get another day! How instantly half-full does our glass get? We see things we take for granted – food, walking, shelter, family – as the embarrassment of riches they essentially are. Our vision is corrected.


My mom is 89. My dad is 87. My beloved father in law died of ALS (and cancer!) when he was 79. Hang around with old folks long enough and you start feeling pretty Tibetan. We have another day. With food in our bellies and warmth in our hearts. Now is the day to say (as my mother says to me), “The most important thing to me is you and your brothers. Everything else pales.” Now is the time to speak our deathbed truths of love and authenticity. Why wait?


So we should all be like Charlotte! Ecstatic and somewhat surprised that our fish and our families made it through another day! Glass-half full it, people! What do you have to lose? There is nothing so sorely needed right now than extravagant joy.